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2013年7月21日 (日)

性犯罪の起訴状 被害者匿名が必要な時もある

The Yomiuri Shimbun July 20, 2013
Crime victims’ names should be kept anonymous in some cases
性犯罪の起訴状 被害者匿名が必要な時もある(7月19日付・読売社説)

Should the real names of victims of crimes be mentioned in an indictment? In a rare development, the court and prosecutors involved in a case are locking horns on the matter.

In a bill of indictment for an indecent assault charge, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office left out the name of the victim, who was a minor. The Tokyo District Court disputed the omission and called for the name to be given.

If prosecutors refuse to comply with the court’s request, it is feared that hearings for the case will be canceled following the dismissal of the prosecution.

The minor in the case was assaulted in an indecent manner in a park restroom. In response to a complaint filed by the child’s parents, the prosecutors indicted a man in his 20s. The parents told the prosecutors up front they would “withdraw the complaint if the child’s name were revealed.”

This is probably because they feared the accused might harbor a potentially dangerous grudge against their child, among other concerns.

Law murky on issue

Indecent assault is an offense that can only be prosecuted after a complaint is filed. Therefore, indictment is not possible without a complaint. The prosecutors, it may be said, had no choice but to withhold the victim’s name in the indictment to prevent the family from having to bear the burden of the offense on their own.

The child was presumably selected at random by the accused. Even before the assault, the alleged offender was not aware of the name of his victim. Disclosing the name in the prosecution process could become problematic from the standpoint of protecting victims of crimes.

The district court took issue with the prosecution’s omission out of concern that withholding the victim’s name would undermine the criminal trial system, which is based on the use of real names. Though there is no such specific requirement in the Criminal Procedure Code, in principle the victim’s name is usually mentioned in addition to other information such as the time and date of the crime committed against that person.

Behind this practice is the idea that if the victim’s name, which is an indispensable element in establishing a crime, is not identified, it could disadvantage the accused when the defense is making a rebuttal.

In fact, in trials over molestation and other crimes, lawyers have proved the accused’s innocence by constructing an effective defense based on information gathered through acquaintances of people claiming to be victims.

Still, it should not be assumed that the names of sex crime victims should always be withheld in indictments.

Overly strict stance

In the case in question, the accused has not disputed the facts presented. If the child’s name remains hidden, it should not negatively affect the court hearings. The district court’s request for disclosure of the name seems to be an excessively rigid stance.

The need to protect victims in judicial procedures was highlighted in connection with a stalking and murder case that occurred last autumn in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture.

When police read the victim’s address aloud as written on the arrest warrant, the offender was made aware of the victim’s whereabouts and found the new address after being released from jail. This provoked the final tragedy in which the victim was murdered.

In a trial at the Kobe District Court’s Himeji branch, a victim’s name was written in katakana on an indictment. This is one example showing that trial and error continue on this issue on the judicial front.

The Supreme Court’s Training and Research Institute for Court Officials will soon investigate the issue of anonymity by reviewing cases that have set precedents on the matter. It is essential for the results of such research to be utilized to help judges facing these kinds of decisions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2013)
(2013年7月19日01時49分  読売新聞)


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